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What is a co-op?How are they different?A brief historyTypes of co-opsWhy use co-ops?Local co-ops  
What is a co-op?        

As we’ve seen, co-ops are everywhere and people who use co-operatives do so for a variety of economic, social and even political reasons, but the benefits of being a member are numerous, including:

  • access to great products and services
  • your voice counts — your co-op truly cares what you think
  • be part of a values-based organization that puts people ahead of profit
  • share in the financial success of the organization
  • contribute to a thriving local economy
  • invest in a business that is locally owned and democratically controlled
  • be part of a strong and proud co-operative tradition
  • help change the way business is conducted
  • co-operatives are leaders in building stronger and healthier communities.

Co-operatives exist in every sector of
the economy and can touch every aspect
of our lives.

Specifically, co-operatives provide you, the user, with:

1. Access to quality supplies and services at reasonable cost.
By banding together and purchasing business supplies and services as a group, individuals offset the market power advantage of firms providing those supplies. You can gain access to volume discounts and negotiate from a position of greater strength for better delivery terms, credit terms, and other arrangements. The larger the group purchasing supplies and services through the co-operative, the greater the potential for savings. The more each individual member uses the supply operation, the more he or she may save over doing business elsewhere.

2. Increased clout in the marketplace.
Marketing on a co-operative basis, like purchasing supplies and services, permits members to combine their strength while maintaining their status as independent business people. They can lower distribution costs, conduct joint product promotion, and develop the ability to deliver their products in the amounts and types that will attract better offers from purchasers.

3. Share in the earnings.
Some people talk about non co-operative firms operating "for profit" while co-operatives operate "at cost." This isn't totally accurate. Most co-operatives generate earnings. They differ from non co-operative firms in how they allocate and distribute their earnings.

4. Political action.
A co-operative gives people a means to organize for effective political action by developing priorities and strategies. Representatives or the co-operative have
more influence because they will be speaking for many, not just for themselves.
Co-operatives can also form coalitions with other groups having similar views on issues. The larger the voice calling for a specific action, the more likely that the system will respond with the policy you desire.

5. Local economy enhanced and protected.
Communities that have their businesses owned and controlled on a co-operative basis help everybody. Co-operatives generate jobs and salaries for local residents who then pay taxes that help finance schools, hospitals, and other community services. Businesses that are co-operatives make your town is less likely to lose those jobs and taxes. A business owned by one person, or a subsidiary of a big company, can easily be closed or moved to another community.